By Mike Schirtzer
Leon M. Goldstein High School- Brooklyn
2013 MORE Vice Presidential Candidate for UFT
On October 9th at 4:00 p.m., activists from all over the city will gather at UFT headquarters (52 Broadway NYC) to protest the emphasis on high stakes testing that is harming our children, educators, and public schools. This action will be led by the grassroots organizations of Movement of Rank & File Educators (MORE), the Social Justice Caucus of the UFT, and Change the Stakes, a group of parents who refuse to allow their children to be measured by standardized test scores.
The rally is being called “Win Back Wednesday” because it’s time for public education to be reclaimed from the profit-driven “reformers” and returned to the real stakeholders; parents, students, and teachers. Our children’s education should never be thought of as “common”, “standardized”, or “data-driven”. Recent educational policies that have swept our city and nation have put an emphasis on high-stakes testing that narrows curriculum, turns teachers into test-prep machines, and takes the fun out of learning. Common Core standards, Danielson rubrics, and value added measures are untested, unproven schemes that have been developed with little to no input from public school teachers or parents. It’s time for us to take back our schools from those who seek to exploit our children. Public education should never be a for-profit endeavor- it should be the foundation of a community where children feel secure and receive an education that provides an opportunity for them to develop critical thinking skills and express creativity.
We are joining together to let the public know that our teachers, students, and public schools are “MORE than a SCORE”. The new evaluation system called “Advance” is rating teachers based on test scores for courses they don’t even teach. There is no conclusive evidence that rating teachers based on test scores will make them better instructors or have a positive effect on our children’s education. The worst part of the new evaluation scheme is that 40% of a teacher’s rating will be based on test score growth, algorithms that have never been proven to accurately determine if a teacher is “effective”. 40% or not, New York State Education Commissioner John King has declared that any teacher who is rated ineffective on the test based measures will be rated ineffective overall. Our education leaders have somehow decided that 40% equals 100%.
Common Core standards and the new teacher evaluation system have led to a proliferation of testing that is having a terrible effect on our youngest students. Children enter school with a natural curiosity to learn about the world we live in, but constant preparation for, and execution of standardized testing takes has taken that from them. Students need to have a chance to develop skills, and we must engage them in their innate love of learning.
When many veteran teachers entered the public school system the emphasis was on helping students to foster their “multiple intelligences” and talents. Learning was designed to be differentiated based on student’s individualized needs. Now our school system has fallen under the dark cloud of standardized testing and “one size fits all” standards which wrongly assumes that all children learn the same way. This is a tragic turn in public education, driven by nefarious preference for profits over what’s best for our children. While corporations and consultants makes millions of dollars, our students are conditioned to take tests, not to provide solutions to real world problems. This is not what education is about, nor can our democracy thrive or survive if this trend continues.
We have chosen the UFT headquarters for the rally because we believe they can be the sole voice of real reform. As nation’s largest, most powerful union local, the UFT can lead the charge for legitimate educational innovation ensuring that the real stakeholders- parents, students, and teachers – have a voice in how to best educate our children. We will be there to urge the UFT leadership to join us in calling for a moratorium of the new hastily implemented evaluation system. Instead of a champion for the Common Core standards and “Advance”, rank and file teachers and public school parents want an advocate for children that says loudly and unambiguously what we all know to be true: the testing regime has run amok.
We need our union leadership to call for real reform, smaller class size, renewed focus on the arts, music, civics, physical education and funding for afterschool programs. While millions of dollars are being wasted on implementing these new “reform” policies, our children lack the services they deserve and our educators enter their fifth year without a contract. The UFT leadership must use its power to say “enough is enough”! We are calling on them to join us in telling the public, politicians, and those that say they care about education that our children, teachers, and public schools are more than a test score!